Be Intentional When Building Internal Relationships

This is fourth of several blogs delving into the origin and meaning of my sales leadership “Words of Wisdom” catchphrases. You can access the complete list here

I had just been promoted from a sales rep to my first sales leadership role. During my orientation  meeting with my new boss, he handed me a list with approximately ten names on it. “What’s this?” I asked. He looked at me and said “These are the people  at corporate HQ who will be critical to your success. Many of them think you are the typical hard charging sales guy who only thinks about  himself. You need to have them on your side – I suggest you go to corporate next week and start building relationships with these people.”

That conversation was a well needed wake up call for me. As a young sales rep, I was solely focused on my own deals and my individual success – and was oblivious to the breadth of contributions needed to make a sales team successful.

Here’s the most important takeaway from this blog: A sales leader’s job requires getting things done through others. Getting things done through others requires the building and nurturing of internal relationships. A sales leader’s failure to do so will put their team and target achievement at risk.

So how does one become intentional about building internal relationships? Step one is understanding who is critical to your success and why.

Let’s identify the relationships a front line sales leader needs to cultivate – at a minimum:

Recruiting – source top performing reps

HR – help with performance plans and other personnel issues

BDR team / Demand Generation – generate new pipeline

Sales ops – handle reporting needs and compensation

Legal – resolve contract redlines

Executives – assist in closing a deal

After identifying “who” step two is the how. Meet with each person on your list to learn the scope of their responsibilities and current priorities. Understand the challenges they face. Agree on the best way to work together. Most importantly, get to know them as people.

Continue to pro-actively nurture these relationships. Treat people to lunch. Provide public recognition when someone delivers above the call of duty. If you detect one of your colleagues struggling, reach out and ask if they are ok.

If you encounter a problem, work with the person directly to resolve it.  If this effort fails, don’t go over their head to their boss. This tactic will make the situation worse.  Leverage your boss to help find a solution.

I’ve created a tool called the “Internal Relationships Map” that helps a sales leader intentionally manage relationships.

Here’s a sample below:

I utilize this tool early in the process with all my coaching clients. I’ve seen a few common themes of late 1) sales leaders initially struggle to identify who is critical to their success and 2) most people over-estimate the health of their relationships.

Getting things done internally may require pushing. It’s ok to edge on with a colleague as long as the outcome you seek is in the best interest of the company. Sometimes a little tension is healthy. A map that has every relationship rated as “awesome” may indicate a sales leaders’ unwillingness to fight for what’s needed.

Nothing is static for a sales leader, especially internal relationships. I suggest monitoring on a monthly basis and taking action as needed.  Make a commitment to mastering this skill – as it will become even more important as your responsibilities increase.

If you would like the “Internal Relationships Map” template, email me at

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